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# Online Learning and Information Exponents: The Importance of Batch size & Time/Complexity Tradeoffs

*Proceedings of the 41st International Conference on Machine Learning*, PMLR 235:1730-1762, 2024.

#### Abstract

We study the impact of the batch size $n_b$ on the iteration time $T$ of training two-layer neural networks with one-pass stochastic gradient descent (SGD) on multi-index target functions of isotropic covariates. We characterize the optimal batch size minimizing the iteration time as a function of the hardness of the target, as characterized by the information exponents. We show that performing gradient updates with large batches $n_b \lesssim d^{\frac{\ell}{2}}$ minimizes the training time without changing the total sample complexity, where $\ell$ is the information exponent of the target to be learned and $d$ is the input dimension. However, larger batch sizes than $n_b \gg d^{\frac{\ell}{2}}$ are detrimental for improving the time complexity of SGD. We provably overcome this fundamental limitation via a different training protocol,

*Correlation loss SGD*, which suppresses the auto-correlation terms in the loss function. We show that one can track the training progress by a system of low-dimensional ordinary differential equations (ODEs). Finally, we validate our theoretical results with numerical experiments.